Okay, the North Dakota Legislature survived its own first half. Crossover (why do I always think of Jim Morrison when I hear that term?) has come and gone. The way I’ve always looked at it, no damage has been done yet. No bills have been signed by the Governor. No laws have been changed, added or eliminated. The only money that’s been spent is salary and per diem for Legislators and staff. Scheming abounds. Some good ideasÂ (and some bad ones) that made their way into bills have been shelved, but no idea is dead until there are no bills remaining onto which it can be amended. Longtime Republican Legislative Leader Earl Strinden, in his day, was the master of that. So was his counterpart, Democrat Richard Backes. Followers of the Legislature watched the last few days of the session when those two were running it, some in joy, some in despair, but all in awe of their legislative skills inÂ shutting down a session. House and Senate Floor Leaders have been dumped in the interim between sessions because of their inability to bring a Legislative Session to a successful end. But not Strinden and Backes. They were the masters. God, I miss them both.
CHEER UP, THINGS COULD BE WORSE
There have been a few wacky bills introduced this session, mostly by right-of-center newcomers, and most have died or will after “statements” have been made, but out in Montana the Tea Partiers are having a blast. One of my favorite Montana political blogs is Montana Cowgirl Blog. Cowgirl has compiled a list of “nutjob bills” that have been “put forward by the Tea Party Republicans, who are now in control of the Legislature. This is not a joke. These are real bills, and they are currently taking priority in the Montana Legislature. Enjoy.”
1.Â Legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)
2.Â Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)
3.Â Allow Legislators to carry weapons in the Capitol (Senate Bill 279)
4.Â Create an 11-person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws (House Bill 382)
5.Â Allow guns in schools (Senate bill 558)
6.Â Eliminate educational requirements for persons seeking the job of State Superintendent of Schools (House Bill 154) (Huh. That’s nuthin’. In North Dakota, Al Carlson is trying to eliminate the job completely.)
7.Â Lift nuclear ban for purpose of building a nuclear reactor in the Flathead Valley (House Bill 326)
8.Â Withdraw the United States of America from the United Nations (Senate Joint Resolution 2)
9.Â Omit Barack Obama’s name from the 2012 ballot because his father was born outside of America (House Bill 205) (this guy (sponsor) was onÂ CNN this week)
10. Eliminate all state incentives for developing wind power (House Bill 244)
11.Â Compulsory marriage counseling for people seeking a divorce (House Bill 438) (I guess Margaret Sitte is serving out there under an assumed name)
12.Â Give sheriffs authority over the federal government in terror investigations (Senate Bill 114)
13. Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)
14. Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches and banks (House Bill 384)
15. Eliminate the law that requires landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors (House Bill 354)
16. Require the federal government to prove in court that National Parks were lawfully acquired (House Bill 506)
17. Officially designate the “Code of the West” as the “Code of Montana” (House Bill 216) (we’ve discussed this one before)
You canÂ look at her blog here (NOTE: In response, Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer, a rancher, has paid $100 to register a new brand with the state Livestock Department that says “VETO.” He hasn’t had the branding iron made yet.
EASING INTO THE 21ST CENTURY: WHOSE LAND IS IT, ANYWAY?
I have a friend named Tom who is politically a conservative independent with a libertarian streak and he is a conservationist. He was excited, as a lot of us were, to read about the conservation easement bill making its way through the North Dakota Legislature. Sponsored by Sen. Connie Triplett, a Democrat, it would have finally legalized permanent conservation easements in North Dakota. It wasn’t just a conservation bill, it was a property rights bill too. North Dakota is the only state that doesn’t allow permanent easements, depriving property owners of one of their most important rights–the right to save land. Okay to develop it, but not to save it in North Dakota. Current law allows 99 year leases, which are not recognized by the IRS as permanent, thus not providing the same financial benefits to landowners as residents of the other 49 states are allowed. In a cruel twist, opponents of permanent easements changed Sen. Triplett’s bill so that it not only continues to disallow permanent conservation easements, but shortens the maximum easement term to 40 years from 99. Which forced Sen. Triplett and all but two of her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans to vote against the bill. To no avail. Senate Majority Republicans passed the bill as amended and sent it to the House, where the battle begins anew. Now Sen. Triplett has to go in front of a House committee and ask them to kill her own bill. I think we probably need to put this on the ballot and let people vote on it. I hope Tom will help.
REALLY FRACKING SCARY
You need to look at the website Bakken Watch. Its owners believe that there is a conflict of interest between state officials and the oil and gas industry. Many state officials in North Dakota are also closely affiliated with the oil and gas industry. To expect our leaders–who are prominent figures in the oil and gas industry–to regulate oil/gas and keep us safe at all costs is like asking unsupervised children to keep their hands out of a very full and wide open cookie jar. The difference, though, is that when they gorge on the cookies, we all pay a huge price for a long time to come. You also need to watch this very troubling video. What’s going on here? This is really scary.
COLOMBIAN GOLD? PANAMA RED?
From Congressman Rick Berg, on his Facebook page: “This afternoon, I joined 67 House freshmen in urging President Obama to move forward free trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Please visit my website to learn more about these agreements and the letter that my colleagues and I sent to the President.” Sooooo. Columbia and Panama. Gee, I remember (kind of) the days back in the late ’60s and early ’70s when a whole bunch of people of my generation would have been big fans of “free trade” with those two countries. Fast forward about 40 years–I wonder if Rick knows something I don’t? And has he told the President?
FOX NEWS NOT HEADING NORTH OF THE BORDER
The article below was borrowed from the Huffington Post and was written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
No wonder the America’s right wing dislikes Canada so much,and disses their health care system. As America’s middle class battles for its survival on the Wisconsin barricades — against various Koch Oil surrogates and the corporate toadies at Fox News — fans of enlightenment, democracy and justice can take comfort from a significant victory north of Wisconsin border. Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news. (emphasis added) Canada’s Radio Act requires that “a licenser may not broadcast….any false or misleading news.” The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987. Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves. When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper’s proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, “Sun TV News” which Canadians call “Fox News North.” Harper, often referred to as “George W. Bush’s Mini Me,” is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity. Harper’s attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda. Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News’s notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin’s protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.